Opnieuw belicht: de pas de deux tussen de filmmuseale praktijk en filmhistorische debatten

Bregtje Godelieve Lameris

Research output: ThesisDoctoral thesis 1 (Research UU / Graduation UU)


What is the interrelation between film museums and film history writing? This question formed the starting point for this research into the history of film museum practice. Focusing on the history of the Amsterdam Film Museum (1946 - 1996), this study examines the ways in which the history of film museum practice parallels film-historical debates, and how museums participated in the (re)production of film-historical discourse. The historical practice of film museums can be divided into three main areas of activity: collection, restoration and presentation. Collection is a process of choices, selection and thus of in- and exclusion. In that sense, collection or acquisition is the fundamental activity of the musealisation of film. What has been archived, collected and preserved automatically becomes part of the film museums' film-historical discourse. Collection practice includes taxonomical practices like categorizing and prioritising, both leading factors in the shaping of a collection. The collecting of films - especially the silent films this research focuses on - often occurred outside of official film-archival institutions like the Film Museum in Amsterdam. In almost every case, silent films reached film museums as part of an already existent collection, brought together by distributors or plain cinephiles. The choices and categories of these first collectors form the starting points of most official archives. In addition to this extra-museological factor, film museums formulated specific collection policies and goals themselves, which largely influenced the shaping of the archives. These policies were often greatly influenced by prevalent film-historical discourses. The last collection shaping activity is the selection of films for preservation and restoration, which entails making films projectable and thus visible again. This is accomplished by making a duplicate of the already present (nitrate) prints. As such, preservation can be conceived as an act of acquisition. The second aspect of film museum practice that actively shapes discourse is the way films are preserved and restored. Film restoration makes use of the fact that film is a medium that can be reproduced: it makes duplicates, and turns those into new and restored versions. From this perspective, a discussion of film as a material object is a necessity, especially because it has become a more and more prominent issue on film museums' and film historians' agendas. Furthermore, there is an interplay between film museums' activities and film historiography where restoration ethics and aesthetics are concerned. For example, questions on restoration techniques and how to use them are of major interest. By changing colours, grading, shading and other factors of image quality, film images can be made to resemble their 'original' state. This means film museums produce historical interpretations of the film image even before film historians see these reproductions. This of course implies an influence of museum practice on film historiography. In the case of the reconstruction of editing structure, the same mechanism applies. However, film-historical debate and opinions on which parameters make a film into an important one - a work of art if you wish - also form an important factor in the shaping of new restoration versions of archival films. By these restoration and preservation activities, film museums shape film-historical discourse. Finally, it is the film museums' presentation that makes the collected and restored films visible. Therefore this is a very important last step in the musealisation of film, and in the shaping of film-historical discourse on a film museum level. Screening rooms and their furnishings are of major importance when it comes to the shaping of meaning. Film museums differ from commercial cinema theatres in their shaping of screening spaces and thus of cinema audiences' expectations and production of meaning. This implies that they are part of the film-historical discourse film museums tend to shape. Also, the way films are combined into programmes is essential in film museums' shaping of discourse. The main difference between film museum programming and film historiography is that for the latter, the survival of a film is less of an obligation, whereas film museums cannot make programmes without collected films. A final element of film display is its performativity. The way films are musically or otherwise accompanied or not, can make a huge difference in either presenting them as a modern 'art' in itself, or as a socio-historical performance art. This research will give the reader insight into film-historical discourse production within film museum practice and the way this has influenced film historiography or has been influenced by it.
Original languageDutch
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • Utrecht University
  • Uricchio, William, Primary supervisor
  • Kessler, Frank, Supervisor
  • Verhoeff, Nanna, Co-supervisor
Award date30 Nov 2007
Place of Publication[Utrecht]
Print ISBNs978-90-76912-84-4
Publication statusPublished - 30 Nov 2007


  • film
  • museums
  • collections
  • restauration
  • presentation
  • cinema
  • media
  • screenings

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